A petition that would put the question of whether to expand Medicaid to about 90,000 uninsured adult Nebraskans has enough certified signatures to put it on the Nov. 6 ballot, Secretary of State John Gale confirmed Friday.
County election officials completed their review of 136,791 signatures submitted for the petition to expand Medicaid eligibility, Gale said, and found state law requirements for valid signatures have been met.
“The measure will be placed on the 2018 general election ballot, barring an order from the district court handling the pending lawsuit that challenges the initiative petition,” Gale said.
At least 84,269 valid signatures were required to add the petition question to the 2018 general election ballot, and 104,477 were valid and certified, he said. That's a 74 percent acceptance rate.
Signatures of more than 5 percent of registered voters were collected in 47 of the state’s 93 counties, which also meets the distribution requirement of 38 counties.
Meg Mandy, campaign chairwoman for Insure the Good Life, which sponsored the petition drive, said the group was confident in the buffer of signatures it collected, but it is always a big relief to get confirmation from the secretary of state that the statutory obligation has been met.
Mandy said it was important to reach voters across the state, in part because of the geographic requirements to qualify the ballot initiative.
"The beauty of that was it really allowed us to get out and talk to people from every corner of the state, in big and small communities," she said.
What they found was whether petition circulators were in Lincoln, Omaha, Chadron or Ogallala, there were many people who supported the ballot initiative. They understood the cost of health care and how it impacts low-income workers and their ability to provide for their families, she said.
Gale said his office will schedule public hearings on the issue in each of the state's three congressional districts and will produce an initiative brochure for each county election office.
Since collecting the signatures, Insure the Good Life has continued to be at big public events, such as county fairs and farmers markets, and will be at the State Fair this weekend educating residents about Medicaid expansion.
If the initiative is successful, Nebraskans who do not qualify for traditional Medicaid coverage and are unable to financially afford private health care insurance would become eligible.
Ninety percent of Medicaid funding would come in the form of a federal match, with the state paying 10 percent of the costs, according to the evolving Medicaid expansion funding formula that would be in place by the time the new program would begin in Nebraska.
The proposal has been estimated to bring $1 billion in federal funding flowing into the state, while requiring a state match that officials in the administration of Gov. Pete Ricketts have said would eventually accumulate to some $800 million over a 10-year period.
Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft and former Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial filed a lawsuit in July attempting to block the initiative from reaching the general election ballot.
That lawsuit had a hearing Monday in Lancaster County District Court and both sides are waiting on a ruling on the arguments offered at that time.
Nebraska Appleseed Executive Director Becky Gould said that in the coming months, the agency would also continue educating voters and building the movement "to finally expand Medicaid to create a stronger economy and a healthier future for every Nebraskan.”